Durante el MicroSalón Madrid 2022 tuvimos la oportunidad de charlar con el invitado especial de la AEC, el director de fotografía Erik Messerschmidt ASC.
Os ofrecemos la conversación que mantuvo con Julio Gómez (al que hemos cortado porque no le pusimos micro) sobre sus trabajos con David Fincher (“Mank“, “Mindhunter“) y también trabajaos recientes en colaboración con Dana Gonzáles, como “Fargo” o “Legión“.
Entrevista filmada y montada por Juan Esparza Cevallos para Camera & Light.
It’s safe to say that in recent years, Netflix has struggled to generate the kind of “prestige” dramas that still routinely draw viewers and critical buzz to premium cable networks or streamers such as HBO. Few among us could hope to understand the demographics being sought by such a massive entertainment juggernaut, or decrypt the desires of the unknowable algorithm as it tries to translate social media hype and bots sharing GIFs into subscriber predictions for three quarters from now. Trying to account for every variable would take supremely gifted intuition and insight into the human condition … the exact skillset of the fictional (but reality inspired) protagonists of Mindhunter. And Netflix let Mindhunter lay fallow, so who’s going to save us now?
The drama devised by creator-writer Joe Penhall and showrunner David Fincher was the rarest kind of Netflix project—a beautifully rendered, big budget, period piece drama with near universal critical praise and audience plaudits to match. And yet, as is so often the case with these diamonds in the rough, the show simply didn’t seem to have the groundswell of support and widespread hype to match the adoration it received from its rapt viewers. At the very least, it wasn’t as widely adopted as Netflix seemingly demands every show be in order to avoid the ever-looming axe, although Mindhunter was never truly canceled with finality—instead, it was sent into “indefinite hiatus” as Fincher’s attention drifted by necessity to an array of other projects. That “hiatus” has now stretched for more than three years, and although rumblings of a Mindhunter revival always seem to be percolating, each passing month only renders a third season less likely when all is said and done.
And that truly is a shame, because Mindhunter was one of the most gripping, unnerving, brilliantly designed and powerfully acted series that Netflix has ever brought to the world of streaming. It’s also a painfully incomplete narrative, as its second season concluded with numerous major storylines dangling in space, robbed of their dramatic possibilities. Watching the series again in retrospect, it’s clear that Mindhunter had a map for where it was headed over several more seasons, but it feels very unlikely we’ll ever see the satisfying payoff of its journey into the darkest parts of the human psyche.
Frame & Reference is a conversation between Cinematographers hosted by Kenny McMillan of OWL BOT. Each episode dives into the respective DP’s current and past work, as well as what influences and inspires them. These discussions are an entertaining and informative look into the world of making films through the lens of the people who shoot them.
In this episode, Kenny talks with cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, ASC, about the new film “Devotion.” Erik has had a very interesting career including work on series such as “Mindhunter”, “Legion”, “Fargo” and as the DP of “Mank” for which he won an Oscar.
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Entrevistamos a Erik Messerschmidt, director de fotografía estadounidense, en el marco del evento MicroSalón AEC, con sede en Madrid. Messerschmidt es habitual colaborador del cineasta David Fincher y obtuvo un premio Óscar a la mejor fotografía por Mank.
Me gustaría preguntarte si consideras que el cine proviene de la fotografía, si te parece que el cine proporciona movimiento a las fotografías o si proviene de una transformación técnica más compleja.
Es una gran pregunta. Creo que el cine es storytelling extendido en el tiempo. Es esculpir en el tiempo, como decía Tarkovski. La fotografía tiene que ver con la historia de un momento singular. El cine manipula y hace progresar el tiempo. Tiene más en común con la literatura y los sueños que con la fotografía.
Award-winning director of photography Erik Messerschmidt, ASC has a natural eye for arresting and spellbinding images, thriving in a role that allows him to combine his love of art, craft and science. Recently, he lensed Devotion for director J.D. Dillard, based on the real-life story of a Black naval officer who befriends a white naval officer during the Korean War, with both becoming heroes for their selfless acts of bravery.
He also finished shooting Michael Mann’s biographical film Ferrari, starring Adam Driver, Shailene Woodley, and Penélope Cruz, and David Fincher’s The Killer, starring Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton.
Previously, Messerschmidt shot Fincher’s passion project Mank, chronicling the screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz’s turbulent journey to write Citizen Kane alongside Orson Welles. Messerschmidt’s meticulous and striking black and white recreation of the period’s aesthetic earned him the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, an ASC Award for Outstanding Cinematography in a Feature Film, a BSC Award for Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Release, a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Cinematography, as well as Best Cinematography award nominations from the San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle, the Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics Choice, and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.
In addition, Messerschmidt co-lensed several episodes of the HBO Max original series Raised by Wolves from producer Ridley Scott. He also shot the first and second seasons of Fincher’s hit thriller series Mindhunter for Netflix, earning a 2020 Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (one-hour) for episode 206.
With a background in the fine arts world, Messerschmidt honed his skills while working with such renowned cinematographers such as Dariusz Wolski, ASC, Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, Phedon Papamichael, ASC, Claudio Miranda, ASC, and Greig Fraser, ASC. Messerschmidt now lives in Los Angeles and is a member of IATSE Local 600. He is represented by DDA.
Has any cinematographer had so fast an ascendancy as Erik Messerschmidt? While no newcomer—his IMDb dates back to 2001, his first cinematography credit from 2003—work on Gone Girl earned the attention of David Fincher, by whom Messerschmidt was then enlisted to shoot his Netflix series Mindhunter. (Impressive then, all the more sterling since as an example of streaming television that doesn’t look or move like streaming television.) Which led into Mank which led into The Killer, Fincher’s much-anticipated thriller arriving next year.
Somewhere along the way Michael Mann called. I talked to Messerschmidt at ENERGACamerimage, where he was promoting the new feature Devotion and mere weeks from wrapping Ferrari, Mann’s first feature in longer than you’d believe and a passion project of equal gestation—nothing you leave in the hands of an amateur. Certainly not if you’re as obsessive, fastidious, demanding as Michael Mann. Meeting in Toruń’s CKK Jordanki, we were quick to start.
Aunque la segunda temporada de Mindhunter (Netflix) se emitió en 2019, todavía muchos de sus seguidores siguen preguntando si volverá la producción que, en sus dos entregas, seguía el trabajo de dos agentes del FBI y una psicóloga que ponen en marcha la Unidad de Análisis de la Conducta del cuerpo en los años setenta. La serie, que tiene entre sus directores y productores al cineasta David Fincher, se basa en las memorias del exagente John E. Douglas y el escritor Mark Olshaker. A partir de ese material y muchas entrevistas con policías reales, expertos en análisis del comportamiento, e incluso con los agentes que capturaron a asesinos en serie como Green River y Ted Bundy, el autor teatral y guionista Joe Penhall (Londres, 55 años) ficcionó las vidas de quienes trataron de meterse en la mente de los criminales más peligrosos.
Are we totally saying goodbye to the option of a 3rd season of Mindhunter?
“I think so. Never say never, but Fincher loves making movies, and making movies is easier than 10 episodes of Mindhunter. The thing is that to make series for Netflix you have to make them like in a sausage factory. You have to get the episodes out with little money. I did 25 or 30 script rewrites per episode. It became impossible. Fincher realized that he couldn’t do that for a long time and also make movies. The budget was too high, we had the best directors… To move forward we would have to lower the quality, and that is why I think it will not happen. But I have told David [Fincher] that I have more seasons in mind. He always tells me, ‘well, we’ll see, who knows…’. In fact, Penhall wrote in 75 pages the main lines of what he devised as 5 seasons of the series. “In the 5th, Tench [played by Holt McCallany] and Holden [Jonathan Groff] become authors, they write books. They go to Hollywood premieres and no longer work as agents, become famous and sign autographs, and have a battle with other rivals over who invented behavioral science and even become consultants on a Hollywood movie. It was a very playful idea”, he smiles.
It’s not often that we as viewers and lovers of television get an inside scoop on what the future of a favorite show would have been — especially once it’s canceled. In the case of Netflix’s Mindhunter, which released its second season back in 2019, the series technically wasn’t canceled so much as a possible third season was put on “indefinite hold” per David Fincher, though the series’ executive producer has also confirmed in interviews since that Season 3 likely isn’t happening, partly due to the fact that it would have required an even steeper budget than the previous one. Now, thanks to Season 2 director Andrew Dominik, we have even more of a sense of why Mindhunter‘s dead-in-the-water third season would’ve had a higher price tag.
In speaking with Collider‘s own Steve Weintraub in a long-spanning interview about his documentary about Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, This Much I Know to Be True, the director also briefly touched on not only his experience with directing two of Mindhunter‘s Season 2 episodes, but also what the third season would have entailed in terms of its main story — as well as which real-life figures the FBI Behavioral Science Unit team consisting of Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), and potentially even psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) would have crossed paths with.
David Fincher’s films are full of doubles, puzzles, and tantalizing glimpses of the director himself. As Adam Nayman writes in his new book about Fincher’s films, Mind Games, “Fincher imposes his presence through the actions and psychologies of thinly veiled proxies: Clockmakers and safecrackers; hackers and terrorists; detectives and serial killers.” These are films that are, like their director, obsessed with procedure and appearance—and intent on puncturing both.
These films are, perhaps because of their complexity or their (at least outward) coldness—or perhaps because of Fincher’s own past as a director of music videos and advertisements—misunderstood or even dismissed. In the past decade alone, Fincher’s The Social Network and, especially, Gone Girl have received radical reappraisals, while Zodiac has been seen by many as one of the best films of the twenty-first century. Mind Games is particularly valuable in its willingness to critically engage with much of Fincher’s less-appreciated output—from his work in advertising to films like Benjamin Button and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. But Nayman, the author of similar studies of the Coen brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson, also deepens the understanding of films by situating them in an oeuvre that has been obsessively looking at many of the same themes for decades.